Posts tagged agriculture

Solutions From the Land Initiative

The Solutions From the Land initiative is a newly announced coalition of world government, universities and various NGOs which will be funded by The United Nations Foundation, Conservation International, The Nature Conservancy, and Farm Foundation.  Formally launched about two weeks ago, the initiative is tasked with creating integrative land use systems which reduce hunger, improve water availability, protect and encourage biodiversity, and battle the threats of climate change.  Way to jump right in the deep end!

The initiative’s website, www.sfldialogue.net, proclaims their vision for the world by 2050:

“By 2050, agricultural systems, forests and other land uses are managed to simultaneously satisfy domestic and global demand for safe, abundant and affordable food, feed, and fiber; support economic security and sustainable development; reduce hunger and malnutrition; improve soil, air and water quality; enhance biodiversity and ensure ecosystem health, and deliver mitigation and adaptation solutions to a changing climate.”

This coming year, four working task groups will address questions critical to the success of the above stated vision.  These task groups will be made up of members of various conservation, forestry, and agricultural groups, as well as representatives from universities and the non-profit world.  They will discuss how to balance an increased demand for natural resources with a need to protect and/or restore natural spaces for the long-term protection of ecosystems while delivering enough water and food to maintain safe and healthy human populations.  They will also look at ways in which legislation, incentivisation, and regulation can be restructured to best serve all interrelated industries.

Then, in Phase 3 of the initiative, scheduled to roll out in 2012, the involved organizations will lay a road map for others to follow to ensure compliance with the spirit of the initiative’s findings.  The initiative hopes to change consumer behavior through a combination of policy changes, voluntary initiatives such as buyer programs, and consumer awareness campaigns, which may also include incentive programs which reward innovations in system design processes and land use.  Though the initial phase of the initiative focuses on domestic American systems, the eventual goal is to take the recommendations, programs, and best practices findings global, in particular so they may benefit developing nations.

I will be interested to see how this project moves forward.  Certainly the approach of integrated systems management which complements rather than destroys surrounding environments is one worth pursuing.  It is headed by the former California Secretary of Food and Agriculture A.G. Kawamura, who is himself a farmer, and Tom Lovejoy of the H. John Heinz Center for Science, Economics and the Environment.  A full list of the design team who have been collaborating these past two years and creating the mission statement can be found at the link above or on their website.

Download a PDF summary of the SFL initiative here.

Initiative press contact information here.

Learn more about Integrated Ecosystem Assessments, as described by NOAA’s NCCOS program, which aims to protect coastal lands and waters through similar research methodologies.

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BioChar: Agriculture’s “Black Gold”

Here’s a quick nugget of information for today. 

BioChar from bones and plants

Scientists have discovered that adding charcoal or other charred materials to soil is a much more effective fertilizer than any methods currently in use.  The main reason for this is that though land is naturally carbon-rich, over time and with increased use, retillage, etc, the carbon-rich materials break down into carbon dioxide and are released into the atmosphere.  Most fertilizers available today, even composts, break down quickly and are therefore only short-term solutions to soil depletion.  However, using charcoal in the soil adds a component that easily absorbs water, holds nutrients for thousands of years, and provides rich minerals to plants that access it.  The study, released by the American Chemical Society, must not have been music to their ears.  BioChar, or “black gold” for agriculture, as they term it, has been shown to remain in the soil for long periods of time and to retain its nutrient rich status.  Read the whole article below for more details.

I wonder myself if this is why American Indian populations used fire periodically to renew agricultiral areas.  Not only does this clear underbrush, leaving the land open for cultivation, it also provides a thick layer of BioChar available to be tilled into the soil.  If so, as is often the case, our native brothers and sisters were far ahead of the ecological curve in sustainable garden design.

Read more here: American Chemical Society (2008, April 15). Ancient Method, ‘Black Gold Agriculture’ May Revolutionize Farming, Curb Global Warming.

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Xeriscaping the Dead Sea – A Case-Study

Click Here to See Geoff Lawton’s Dead Sea Restoration Project

Geoff Lawton, Xeriscaper Extroardinaire

This EXCELLENT presentation gives you a nice video overview of a successful xeriscaping and land restoration project carried out in the Dead Sea area of Jordan. You can actually watch the progression from desert to a lush canopy of green and edible foods. And to see that the salt levels of the soil dropped so dramatically is quite a convincing argument to try it yourself. Geoff Lawton and his team are genius to have done this. If you are considering doing your lawn with drought-friendly plants, or in converting waste-space to something much more beautiful while restoring the natural balance of the soil, please check out this site!

Here is SoCal, the Salton Sea is a popular tourist destination, as it is a similar environment to the Dead Sea. In fact, like the Dead Sea, the Salton Sea is getting saltier every year as its water evaporates. Given the hot temperatures (there is a reason that all the spas of Palm Springs are so popular!), there is a lot of sandy desert for every patch of green. Do you live there? Try this and send us pictures!

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Dirt gets a facelift

Click Here for the Full Story!

The Old Stuff

Here’s a new concept: fake soil! This Japanese company has developed a plastic soil that is lighter than traditional dirt. This will make load-design for living roofs that much easier for architects, especially in earthquake-prone areas like California. It might be useful for cantilevering gardens onto apartment terraces, too, for all you renters out there. I’d be interested to see how the nutrient content of this “soil” compares with regular, how much water it requires, and how it might affect grown plants nutritionally. Would you eat a carrot grown in urethane? Hmmm. And what are the carbon costs of producing this? Can’t wait for a user review!

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